export-controls 14 September 2017

Progress of Arms Trade Treaty under scrutiny as conference gets underway

The third Conference of State Parties (‘CSP’) to the Arms Trade Treaty (‘ATT’) is being held between 11 and 15 September in Geneva against a background of some controversy. The conference will discuss the implementation of the multi-lateral treaty, which came into force in 2014 to regulate the international trade in conventional arms and establish international standards governing arms transfers. Ninety-two states have ratified the treaty, while 130 are signatories.


Fit for purpose?
ATT Monitor, an annual report on the effectiveness of the ATT by civil society group Control Arms, states that 19 state parties and three signatories have supplied arms to Saudi Arabia since the start of the war in Yemen in 2015, which has caused mass civilian casualties, displacement and air strikes on schools, hospitals and homes. The UK, France and the US are the largest suppliers of arms to Saudi Arabia: the UK has secured £3.7bn worth of arms sales to the country since the beginning of 2015. In July 2017 the High Court ruled in a case brought by Campaign Against the Arms Trade (‘CAAT’) that the exports were lawful.  Under UK and EU rules, export licences cannot be granted if there is a ‘clear risk’ that the arms could be used to break international humanitarian law.

The report also states that state parties Belgium, Bulgaria, France, South Korea and the UK, as well as signatories including the USA, authorised arms sales to the Philippines in 2016, while the UK sold military equipment to Venezuela in 2016, along with other ATT states parties including France, Italy and Spain, and Ukraine, a treaty signatory.

‘The Arms Trade Treaty was designed to protect human rights, but arms supplied by states parties and signatories are still being used to commit horrific abuses. Whether in Philippines President Duterte’s bloody “war on drugs” or in the brutal conflict in Yemen, people around the world are suffering every day as a result of reckless arms transfers. There must be consequences for governments who continue to fuel human rights abuses in breach of their obligations under the treaty,’ said James Lynch, head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International.


ATT Monitor’s 2017 report can be found here: